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RE: Further thoughts on user agent support

From: Yvette P. Hoitink <y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl>
Date: Thu, 24 Mar 2005 14:11:51 +0100
To: "'Web Content Accessibility Guidelines'" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <E1DES9N-0001RY-Fi@frink.w3.org>

Jason scetched two scenarios that argue against a fixed baseline or
requiring that the technology be 'widespread' available. I have a few more:

* A company develops a highly innovative new technology and develops a user
agent to handle that new content. The user agent follows UAAG and interfaces
well with existing assistive technologies. The technology has all the
accessibility features necessary to meet the success criteria.
Unfortunately, it's not possible to comply with WCAG because the technology
isn't widely available yet. This means web developers that want to use the
new technology won't bother with the accessibility features because they
still won't comply. 

* A company develops a new web technology that requires a very expensive
user agent. The user agent follows UAAG and interfaces well with existing
assistive technologies without extra pay. The costs to use the technology
are the same for people with or without disabilities. Unfortunately, it
isn't possible to comply to WCAG using this technology because WCAG says it
should be widespread which it isn't because it's so expensive.

One of the biggest problems with WCAG 1 in my opinion is that it discourages
new technologies. That makes sense for the short term, because in many cases
the assistive technology won't handle the new content so people are left in
the cold if authors use new technologies. But in reality, developers are
going to use the new technology anyway even if that means the content won't
be WCAG-compliant. The developers won't bother with the accessibility
features because that still won't give them an accessible website according
to the WCAG. Also, user agents will not be stimulated to support the
accessibility features because they're not being used and the content still
wouldn't meet WCAG 1. This leaves a lot more people in the cold in the long

I feel that in WCAG 2 we should embrace new technologies from the start and
encourage authors to use the accessibility features, even if the user agents
can't handle those features yet or don't interface well with assistive
technology yet. That way, the burden is on the UA-developer to support the
accessibility features. Because the features are being used, the
UA-developers will be much more cooperative and will be pressured to support
accessibility from the developer community as well as the accessibility

I realize that this suggestion can lead to the paradoxal case of a
WCAG-compliant website that no blind person can actually use but that's just
a temporary situation 'until user agents' step up to the plate. But this way
our guidelines will benefit more people in the long run.

Yvette Hoitink
Heritas, Enschede, the Netherlands
E-mail: y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl
WWW: http://www.heritas.nl 
Received on Thursday, 24 March 2005 13:13:25 UTC

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